Prison's Addict Program Awaits Schaefer Decision

October 13, 1991|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff writer

SYKESVILLE — Officials at a state prison here are hoping the governor won't shut down their drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment program because of budget cuts.

While the General Assembly Friday night restored partial funding for drug treatment for adult addicts, it's up to Gov. William Donald Schaefer to decide which programs will be spared.

Before the governor and state legislature went back to the negotiating table Tuesday, officials of Junction Bridge Inc. were told their statewide program would be eliminated Oct. 31.

"That would mean there won't be any drug- or alcohol-abuse treatment for these inmates," said Jeanne Taylor, executive director of Junction Bridge. "That affects treatment for about 2,000 inmates at three facilities each year."

Junction Bridge is a private, non-profit organization that hascontracted with the state to provide substance-abuse treatment to inmates who are nearing release, including those at the Central LaundryFacility. The group uses certified addictions counselors to provide treatment.

With the restoration of $4.5 million of the $9.3 million the governor had cut, Junction Bridge officials hope they would nothave to close the program completely.

"If we got the money back, of course, we would continue to operate," Taylor said. "If we get just partial funding, then services would be cut, we wouldn't be able totreat as many clients, and we would have to lay off employees."

The 11-member board of directors that runs Junction Bridge held an emergency meeting Thursday night to discuss the proposed budget cuts.

"My personal feeling is that they didn't have to completely liquidate programs," said Robert Urban, board chairman. "What kills me is that the program is a baby of the governor's and I think it's the only program of its kind in the prison system."

He said the board can only wait for a decision. If the money is restored, the group will continue for as long as possible. If not, Junction Bridge must vacate thepremises by Nov. 30, he said.

Junction Bridge gets its money fromthe state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration and offers an intensive 12-week program to inmates who have already undergone treatment to ease them off their addiction.

Mike Golden, ADAA spokesman, saida decision about where specific program cuts would be made must comefrom Schaefer.

"We don't know what programs will be affected," hesaid Thursday. "You have residential programs, intermediate and others, and it's a programmatic decision by the governor which programs get cut or restored and how much."

Last July, the group got $1.6 million for 1992 and 1993. The money did not allow for any staff salaryincreases, Taylor said.

The facility is the largest of the three Junction Bridge locations, employing 26 people and treating 1,440 inmates a year.

"Our primary focus is men on the pre-release program who will get out in two years," said Sondra Tranen, Junction Bridge'sclinical services director. "If they don't get treatment here, when they get out, the community can be guaranteed of more addicts on the street and more crime."

Statistics show that a drug addict with a $100-a-day habit must steal the equivalent of $300 a day to support his habit, she said. The cost for Junction Bridge to treat one inmate for 12 weeks is $460.

"We're trying to get these men to change their behaviors, to understand why they do this and to understand the consequences," Taylor said. "Our function is to prepare them for going back out in the community with some sound goals and a change of attitude."

Follow-up on the inmates that Junction Bridge has treated over the last 15 years of its existence show a 78 percent success rate,Taylor said.

"That means they do not return to jail or have another charge against them, most of which stemmed from the substance abuse," she said.

Junction Bridge employs 23 full-time and nine part-time counselors at Sykesville, the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, Washington County, and the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup, Anne Arundel County.

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